Saturday, December 31, 2016

In Memoriam to 2016, Good Riddance

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 - 1892

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

In Memoriam to 2016

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;

There is hardly any other way to put it: 2016 has been a real bitch. I can’t wait for it to be done. If I could go back or skip 2016 I would. The only good thing about 2016 was the Cubs winning the World Series. Maybe if 2016 had ended there—but, no, let it go.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;

Goodbye Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill. Mohamed Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen. It was like every day I was opening up my newsfeed to discover some new passing, a death that took my breath away, a sinking lurch. Oh, no, not another.

The random murders in my neighborhood. Within a matter of weeks in August there were two shootings. A woman crossing the street in front of Uptown Baptist Church, age 57, is shot and killed. Then Friday night a man walking in front of my building, age 55, gunned down.

Then my college friend’s husband, also a good friend of mine, SUDDENLY died. She heard a thump in the bathroom and that was it. On election night I got news that a close friend had gone for a walk, sat down on a park bench, and never got up. A passerby called 911. A few nights ago I was on Facebook, there is a lot of chatter around another friend. Finally I wrote to her daughter: What’s up with your Mom? In the a.m. I got her message: Mom passed away Thursday morning.

I’m so sad for the friends I’ve lost. I feel as if I have PTS. I can’t wait for 2016 to end. Go, go, go—

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells

Finally, the election. I’ve often wondered if I had made a bargain with God, maybe said okay no World Series if you just let Hillary win. Or if not her, just not him. Worked out some kind of trade, given something up for perhaps the greater good. But we are stuck here on the edge of an abyss and I’m not sure about 2017. 2018 or 2019 for that matter. The world seems a gravely dangerous place.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;

We’ve endured so much in 2016. Lies and malice, doublethink and double talk, where right is wrong and wrong is right. A brave new world. 1984. We are on a slippery slope and I am sick with every twisting tilt. I have to remind myself to breathe.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Have I mentioned Syria? The barrel bombs, the children, people crushed, ground into dust. Hospitals, once off-limits during war, obliterated. The last one gone. The UN cannot even get a majority vote for safe passage of civilians. What is this world coming to? Not so much a question, but a ragged sigh. The few refugees who have made it, found a landing place are once again threatened by far-right governments wanting to turn a blind eye. The hate and rancor. The mistrust of the stranger, the outsider, the other. Christ asks: Who is my mother, my brothers? This no longer feels like some existential question, but someone snapping their fingers in front of my face and demanding that I wake up. Here! Here! They are all around us! Sleeping under bridges, crossing dangerous seas, standing in our midst asking for help, for a lifeline to be thrown. How will I answer . . .

Ring out the darkness of the land,

I want to ring out 2016. Wring it out. Twist it all gone, and in its place:

Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
For all the heartbreak, dashed expectations, tears there’s got to be something more. Ring in hope.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead

I didn’t know much about this book—except the title and the author.

And, let me tell you, right now, read it.

I’ve been telling people about this book, and the affect is reflective of the culture prevalent after this election. Bi-polar. People either love the book or don’t. You either get it or don’t. You either voted for Trump or you didn’t. The scary part is walking around in a world where you just aren’t sure.

Atlanta artist Cory Thomas illustrates the strange new reality of everyday life after Trump’s victory.

There is an underground railroad depicted in the book that is both highly representative historically but also figuratively. By following the main character Cora we are invited along the way to visit several dark (and I mean DARK) periods of African-American history in America. It doesn’t get better. If you are looking for an uplifting read, this might not be it.

At first it was a page turner, Nat Turner, I felt growing excitement because I knew she was going to escape, I knew she’d get off the plantation. It’s what follows that kept throwing me. After awhile I slowed down, savored the book—I was also afraid to pick it up. Afraid to read the rest.

It was the very last 60 pages, Indiana that gave me the most pause. Indiana—isn’t that the place with sundowner laws—like don’t get caught in town after sundown or you might not see sun  up? But there are also nice Quaker folks in Indiana that will take you in and make you feel welcome. There can be a little of both. Without revealing what happens, I can say this much, community can be a place where we can grow but also shows us the dark side of human nature. We can heal but also hurt.

After finishing the book I saw that in this new Trump America:

--people will quickly turn on you. 

There used to be hope—hope for a diverse, multi-ethnic America. But since the election it seems like people want to kick someone else down the line. If not because the color of their skin, then because of their ethnicity, or because of how they identify, their gender, or because they are disabled. I’m saddened that there might not be any safe places. The last chapter spoke to me—that there might not be any sanctuary cities for Dreamers, that right when you think we can all get along someone will up and denigrate, belittle, call you out. You might get shot in the back and the cop go free. Justice seems more and more elusive.

You must read this book, and we have to keep telling people to read it, even it they don’t want to hear it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throw Back Thursday: Suicide Hill

From an earlier post:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let It Snow

Already this winter we’ve had a couple of snows with more predicted for this weekend.
Yup. A White Christmas!!
I was reminded in a recent conversation about a sledding hill I always went to growing up near Kettering, Ohio. It was famously named Suicide Hill. This was a real sled eater. Approaching the climb there were barrel fires fed by broken wooden sleds sacrificed to Suicide Hill.
The hill was deceptive. Trees lined the descent so that any veering brought the sledder into contact with them. As a kid I was always bailing, letting gravity take the sled into it’s gentle good night, the tight fist of death. I cannot count how many sleds my brothers, sister, and I ruined.
The back of Suicide Hill was just as dangerous as the front—though perhaps not as many trees. A ride this direction was longer and not as fast, but full of moguls or bumps that sent me flying. The community golf course where the hill was located was the product of glacial moraines: imagine icy fingers digging into soft ground creating drumlins and ridges. I think the golf course was called Hills & Dales.
Just getting to the top of the hill required digging in the heels of my boots and hanging on to tree branches, a bit like climbing hand-over-hand. Sometimes I wondered if it would be better just to go on my hands and knees. Once at the top you’d have to catch your breath. Standing at the brink looking down—especially as a little kid abandoned by my older brothers and sister—it was steep. Somehow I don’t remember this stopping me though.
I Googled suicide hill kettering and right away something like 6 million results came up—a rush of nostalgia. From a forum (about another structure in the park—a boarded up tower—which I’ll write about later in another blog post):
Aug 13, 2009
9:57 AM
It was there when we used to sled ride on "suicide hill" about 1955, and my father said that it was there when he was in high school and had a car, about 1937.
Mikey, Gatlinburg, TN

And this from 2009: Medics carry four off 'Suicide Hill' -

And this souvenir T-shirt:
And this article from 1996:


January 3, 1996 | Copyright
DAYTON, Ohio -- Four women broke their backs in sledding accidents last month on a golf course slope known as ''Suicide Hill.''
All four women were treated at Miami Valley Hospital's emergency room.
''It was strange, because they were practically carbon copies of each other,'' said Dr. Norman Schneiderman, medical director of the emergency and trauma center.
The women all hit the same bump on the slope at the 12th tee of Community Golf Course in suburban Kettering and went airborne. As they came down again onto their sleds, they suffered compression fractures to the lower back.
There is even a Suicide Hill Facebook page.
So often our memory plays tricks on us. Memories more times than not don’t synch with reality. The biggest, the highest, the whatever is usually brought down to earth when revisited. Here is one instance where the memory is not distorted or exaggerated by time.
Suicide Hill is one badass motha.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

NEW STORY up at Gival Press

check out a new story out at Gival Press

here's just the beginning
Check out my new story posted at Gival Press

here's the beginning--
Ordinary Time

I. One day

He was waiting by the dock.

Several thoughts competed for his attention. The heavy clouds and thick shadows passing over the water. The ferry slogging through the choppy waves. The fact that spring was late and Easter was early this year. He felt impatient waiting. It was on its way, out there on the gray horizon.

Arne-Dag smiled. Always the pastor, always thinking in metaphors. It was hard to escape.

The hull of the ferry yawned before him as the ramp lowered and car engines started up. A stream of cars exited. Slowly the queue he was in moved forward toward the ship’s cavity. Again it felt like death or another biblical allusion: Jonah in the belly of the whale. He was trying to alight on just the right illustration for next week’s Palm Sunday sermon. Christ triumphant entering the city. He lined up his automobile and parked. A cold wind blew so he stayed inside while other drivers got out to smoke. Palm branches waving. Many in his small parish were somewhere warm this week. They were drenched in short sleeve-sunshine and triumph. The ferry pulled away from the dock.

He scrubbed his face with his hands in an attempt to wake up. It had been a long day and he was in a hurry to get back to the church before his confirmation class showed up in the basement where a pool table and foosball table had been installed. They used to keep colas in the fridge but some of the parents complained (rightly) when their kids began putting on pounds. So, gone were the sugar drinks. Not so good for anyone. He was constantly weighing what was good and not good for his flock.

The ferry’s whistle blew to announce their approach on the other side of the fjord. Darting swiftly, headlights zigzagged on the steep roadway down to the dock. He had a fleeting thought: That’s how accidents happen. He waited with the other drivers in a smog of cigarette smoke and diesel fumes, in a kind of dull twilight for the door to drop.

He followed taillights until they turned off. The leaden clouds were about to release rain and people were scattering. But Arne-Dag kept going. Late afternoon and he could almost hear the lightweight foosball dropping into the socket and the kids jamming on the rods animating the players. The one kid, Magnus, always the loudest. SCORE!!! Arne-Dag, it seemed, was constantly asking him to sit down, to think before speaking. Here he smiled again to himself. To think before screaming—

Arne-Dag screeched to a sudden stop. His breath came out in ragged bursts as he pulled up the parking brake. “Christ!”

Around the bend a man lay in the middle of the road. A woman bent over him sobbing.

Arne-Dag scrambled as best he could for a big man, sliding his belly against the steering wheel, leaving the door open to reach the couple.

“What’s going on here?”

The woman was Asian but answered him in Norwegian. “I don’t know.”

A motorcycle had obviously skidded and was piled up by a snow drift at the side of the roadway. Arne-Dag was fighting to find a connection between all the pieces and people before him. “What is his name?”

“I don’t know.”

He wondered for a second if she was all there. Her black hair billowed in the wind and stuck to her lips and lashes.

“I just got here,” she said.

Arne-Dag looked around. From where? He assumed she’d been with him on the bike, but of course, not; she was wearing only a wool coat with no hat nor gloves. “Where did you come from?” he asked.

“I was out walking, clearing my head. I was walking here beside the road smoking a cigarette.”

Arne-Dag nodded. It was easy enough to see how the accident happened. The cyclist must have rounded the corner and come upon her and swerved to miss her. He tried to think—had he been on the ferry? He quickly dialed for emergency medical services. He supposed the man was unconscious; his cracked helmet was still strapped to his chin.

“Yes. Yes,” he answered into his cell. “Yes. I’ll check.”

Arne-Dag bent down. He now noticed blood seeping out from beneath the rider’s head. He touched his throat and that’s when he realized the driver was dead. There was no pulse.

The woman stared up into his face as he relayed the information. With the words, she lost all control. Arne-Dag threw down the phone to catch her before she walked over the side of the road and tumbled down the ravine. He held her for a long time. He was going to be very late for the confirmation class.

continue HERE
Stein Arild (@stein_bgg) | Instagram

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Buy! Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir

tons of writing prompts, a way to flash forward
Baker & Taylor Blio
Baker-Taylor Axis360
Barnes & Noble
Gardners Extended Retail
Gardners Library
Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)
Library Direct

Monday, December 19, 2016


I do English. Been doing it for awhile. Readin’ writin’, you know. It’s not simply that I care (and I do), but others do too. If I submit a piece riddled with errors, it gets rejected. If I were a student handing in a paper, I would expect the content as well as the argument of the piece to be subjected to a rated grading system, evaluated on several different levels. This is life, this is language, this is just how it is. And, if you want to change it, then good luck, you’ll have Merriam Webster to answer to.

I also understand with social media we can play fast and loose. I have my own style. Even the best copy editor or proof reader gets that there is room for interpretation. Some writers are prone to inserting or using a style laden with commas, while others choose to loosen up and let the sentence flow. Though I do subscribe to the Oxford comma.

As far as spelling goes, there is also room for ambiguity. Is it cosy or cozy, grey or gray? It’s also easy to get hung up on homonyms. Cash, cache, buoy, boy, carat, carrot. They sound the same, but are not the same thing. If you do not trust yourself, then use spellchecker. Some are a little autocratic, but they can save you embarrassment.

Then we have president-elect Donald Trump. We’ve already seen evidence that he thinks he’s above the law, above what is considered socially acceptable or politically acceptable; he takes calls from Taiwan and he goes against the grain. He was voted in because people wanted real change. I get it. But, folks, he is not above standard spelling.

Mistakes are not exactly blog-worthy (he deleted it like 87 seconds later)—we all make them. In fact I always find typos in the Washington Post. But, not if you’re president, about to be president, or trying to sound tough against China.

Again this isn’t why I’m writing about it—it’s because of the blowback. Constituents, people who support Trump, uneducated white males, whoever: the ones saying WTF does it matter? IT DOES MATTER. You are not an East-Coast, latte sipping, politically correct-bashing liberal just because you call someone out on spelling!!! There are standards, just like in real news vs fake news or a lie vs truth.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Flash Nightmares

The other day I had a flash, a memory—and it still brings a chill over me. It’s one of those nightmare memories, along the lines of standing next to your high school locker naked. I needed help moving and a friend loaned me his car—just one tiny problem: it was a stick shift. Like a normal twenty-year old, I thought this wasn’t going to be a problem. I loaded up the vehicle and told myself, All I have to do is get out of first and I’m rolling. It took me an hour just to get out of the driveway.

On the roadway (I remember now it wasn’t a highway, but a very busy divided road—much like Far Hills Ave.) all I wanted to do was cruise. Not have to stop for a red light. Which might have worked had I not had to go about 8 miles.

Eventually I did have to stop. I can still feel the terror come over me as I stalled out and, in my anxiety and fluster, was unable to get the car into gear. Either I would be rear-ended or towed, and none of these ideas appealed to me. I started, jerked, and tried again to figure out how to shift.

All around me cars were honking. I know, I know, I wanted to scream. Until at a certain point I realized drivers were also pointing, vigorously stabbing their fingers. Huh? I looked in the rear view mirror to see clothes and boxes strewn across the lanes. Ohhhhh.

I must’ve forgotten to close the hatch.

On a scale of one to ten, I was a twelve for stress that morning. I parked right there and got out and began gathering my things. Dashing here and there, collecting whatever I could.

I eventually made it to my new apartment and called the car’s owner to come get it. I was in no shape to return it. Afterwards, I recall putting on a blouse that had tire marks on it, and reliving that moment, stuck in between gears.

Write right now—what’s your go-to horror story? That moment you don’t want to remember, but can’t seem to forget.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday, December by James Schuyler

I originally posted this

Thursday, December 6, 2012

“December” by James Schuyler

Il va neiger dans quelques jours FRANCIS JAMMES
The giant Norway spruce from Podunk, its lower branches bound,
this morning was reared into place at Rockefeller Center.
I thought I saw a cold blue dusty light sough in its boughs
the way other years the wind thrashing at the giant ornaments
recalled other years and Christmas trees more homey.
Each December! I always think I hate “the over-commercialized event”
and then bells ring, or tiny light bulbs wink above the entrance
to Bonwit Teller or Katherine going on five wants to look at all
the empty sample gift-wrapped boxes up Fifth Avenue in swank shops
and how can I help falling in love? A calm secret exultation
of the spirit that tastes like Sealtest eggnog, made from milk solids,
Vanillin, artificial rum flavoring; a milky impulse to kiss and be friends
It’s like what George and I were talking about, the East West
Coast divide: Californians need to do a thing to enjoy it.
A smile in the street may be loads! you don’t have to undress everybody.
                                    “You didn’t visit the Alps?”
                                    “No, but I saw from the train they were black
                                    and streaked with snow.”
Having and giving but also catching glimpses
hints that are revelations: to have been so happy is a promise
and if it isn’t kept that doesn’t matter. It may snow
falling softly on lashes of eyes you love and a cold cheek
grow warm next to your own in hushed dark familial December.
How many  of us have felt this way? A bit jaded about the holiday. Why not? I mean everyone else is so over the top. At least on TV or at the Target down the street. You almost feel like going to sleep and waking up in January--or spring--or in the Bahamas.

You might not start out this way. After a long drought and an even longer Recession, you may be ready for a chance to celebrate. But, soon, all the stress, the time constraints, the never-ending parties, all the eating, and requests for donations, cookies, cupcakes, and loud television ads, and annoying Facebook pop-ups, the incredible traffic at the mall, the broken ornaments,
and prickly pine needles, e-mail newsletters from old friends that always start off with all the fantastic things happening in their life: the trips, the kids, the graduations, the new jobs--and soon you feel like a total mess. And, on top, of that, you may be by yourself. You've lost both parents, your son or daughter isn't on speaking terms anymore, the divorce has separated you from the grandkids, and the few friends you still occasionally see are ill or struggling with health issues. Or voted Republican and can no longer abide the sight of you--after so many years. 

Yet. Even though--the weather is not cooperating and the mail doesn't bring cards and the stupid radio won't stop playing Rock'n Around the Christmas Tree and now it loops inside your head--you hear a faint pealing and look up and the bells at Saint Mary of the Lake are ringing and the pine tar smell of Christmas trees drifts over from the corner lot where old guys are hanging out and warming their fingerless gloved hands over a burning trash barrel, and for a brief moment your heart quickens and the Christmas spirit ever-so faint begins to flicker. 

You might return to disappointment, to kicking the radio down the stairs, to overeating without satisfaction. But, you will remember and know that underneath all the hype and the jingoistic Reason for the Season that hope indeed did come into the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In Wiry Winter

In Wiry Winter - James Schuyler (1970)

The shadow of a bird
upon the yard upon
a house: it's gone.
Through a pane a
beam like a warm hand
laid upon an arm.
A thin shell, trans-
parent, blue: the
atmosphere in which
to swim. Burr. A
cold plunge. The bird
is back. All the same,
to swim, plunging
upward, arms as wings,
into calm cold. Warm
within the act,
treading air, a
shadow on the yard.
Or floating, gliding.
a shadow on the roofs
and drives, in action
warm, the shadow cold
but brief. To swim
in air. No. Not in
this wiry winter air.
A beam comes in the
glass, a hand to
warm an arm. A hand
upon the glass
finds it a kind
of ice. The shadow
of a bird less cold.
From  Collected Poems, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

365 Affirmations for the Writer

Check out 365 Affirmations for the Writer, an eBook that will inspire you and keep you writing.

*The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through
Baker & Taylor Blio
Baker-Taylor Axis360
Barnes & Noble
Gardners Extended Retail
Gardners Library
Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)
Library Direct

Monday, December 12, 2016

Places to Submit Flash

Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest 2
A project of Geist


Make your own postcard using photos, drawings or images in the public domain, write a story inspired by that postcard, then send us the image and the story. The relationship between image and story can be as subtle as you like, as long as the contest judges can see the connection.
Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

The Fourth Rivers new weekly online publication, “Tributaries,” showcases the brief and the inspiring, that which sustains us and takes us through unexpected courses. Each week we will feature one piece on the home page of the web site.
Clickto submit to Tributaries
*Please submit nature/place-based work in the form of:
-no more than (500) words of prose
-one poem
-one piece of visual artwork

Spelk= Short, sharp flash fiction

·  We publish flash fiction — 500 words, give or take.
·  We’ll consider just about any genre: we’re not fussy if it’s “literary” or “non-literary.” If we like it, we’ll publish it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Only Time I've Been Arrested

The only time I’ve ever been arrested . . . . sounds like a good writing prompt. Go!

The only time I’ve ever been arrested was about 40 years ago on an overpass in Nebraska.

I’d flown out from Dayton, Ohio to visit my sister working at a summer camp in Platte. It was the end of the season yet before time to go back to college. At that time in Ohio classes didn’t start until the second half of September.

I remember the silty-bottom rivers and sand cranes, the sound of them calling to each other over the rolling hills. Outside of that and getting arrested there isn’t much else I remember about Nebraska.

That summer a friend had introduced me to the thrill of sitting on an overpass above the highway and the rush when a semi passed beneath, the sudden whoosh as it flew out. I’d sit with my feet dangling, feeling the aero dynamics through my thin-soled sneakers. Movies and bowling cost money, but this was free.

So on my last night in Nebraska I talked one of my sister’s co-workers into going with me to a bridge. He was very enthusiastic. “Let me get some cookies.” I’m sure I thought, Great idea! We might get hungry. Little did I suspect he was going to toss them off the bridge at the traffic down below.

At some point, I probably joined in.

We were just getting started when headlights turned off and a car came our way, onto the country road. We were skadaddling when the cop car pulled up. We were caught red-handed with cookies. The rest is hazy.

I know we were lectured on how dangerous it was to throw anything onto the highway. I’m pretty sure we were sorry. Regardless, I and the other guy were taken in. I wasn’t carrying any ID. The worse part was having to call my sister from the station. Or, maybe the worse part was the thought of missing my plane because I was in jail. I really, really wanted to get out of Platte.

Anyway, my sister showed up. I don’t think she had to pay bail. We were released under our own recognizance, sent home with my sister who was still trying to process what exactly we’d been up to that evening. We made it back to the camp in time for me to pack and for my sister to drive me to the airport. (394 words)

How about you? Do you have a story to tell? Write a flash about that one time, the last time, the only time you’ve ever been arrested.
unbelievably, I know this guy, ahead of his time

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Connection Between Jane Freilicher and Fairfield Porter

A few posts ago I announced that I have been awarded a residency on Great Spruce Head Island, once the vacation home of Fairfield Porter who hosted numerous characters from the New York School of painters and poets, namely James Schuyler who had a room reserved at both the Maine and Southampton home of the Porters.

Fairfield Porter was an artist that only seemed to grow in importance after his death—like so many artists and writers. While alive the kind of art he pursued had no purchase, no level footing amongst Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollack was an acquaintance and neighbor of Fairfield Porter on Long Island (as was Willem de Kooning)—yet the two were worlds apart.

Firstly, he was viewed as a hobbyist. This was mostly due to the fact that he owned an island. He came from a wealthy family and in truth didn’t have to work or earn money. Yet he lived relatively modestly. Among the Bohemian crowd he circulated with, he was a bit of a dad, okay, a bisexual experimenting dad, but that’s not so unusual really. He loved widely, lived expansively. And never seemed to give up on his friends. His artwork is described as representational, his subject matter that of everyday life. The kids sitting in the living room reading, a boy and girl under a tree, a vase of flowers on a table, the Spruce Head house, the island in sunlight, a girl on a bike, friends.

James Schuyler with Fairfield Porter's daughter Katherine
Keep in mind representational encompasses impressionism. There is still great mystery to these pictures, a feeling that there is more than meets the eye. The images are not quite in focus, separate, alone.

on the island
Jane Freilicher also took the more conservative route. So many of her friends were into abstract—why didn’t she just go along or fall under their influence? What caused her to keep to her own path? One that didn’t get as much attention, reviews, shows.

From her New York Times obituary: Ms. Freilicher had her first solo show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1952. In a review for ARTnews, the painter and critic Fairfield Porter called her work “traditional and radical.” Her paintings, he wrote, “are broad and bright, considered without being fussy, thoughtful but never pedantic.”

Ms. Freilicher also counted among her circle of admirers the New York poets Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch and, above all, John Ashbery, who wrote frequently about her work and was the first to buy one of her paintings.

The dominant style at the time was Abstract Expressionism.

“Realism is the only way I can do it,” she told Mr. Porter, who became a good friend as well as a critical champion, in a 1956 ARTnews article. “Every so often I get an anxious feeling and would like to produce that bombed-out effect of modern painting. Maybe my form is too closed. I feel a certain desire for exploding a picture the way some artists do. Can you explode a painting realistically? I don’t know.” She passed away December 9, 2014.

Early Fall, 2013

Jane’s subject matter mirrors Fairfield Porters, the extraordinary ordinary.

Fairfield Porter painting Jane Freilicher       
Fairfield Porter Archive, The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York
Right now I am applying for an arts grant from the city of Chicago. These are highly sought-after and fiercely competitive. In retrospect much of my work seems pedestrian, lightly topical. Vignettes, flashes of everyday life. Remembrances. I just hope that I don’t have to wait to die before my work gets appreciated.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

365 Affirmations for the Writer

Check out 365 Affirmations for the Writer, an eBook that will inspire you and keep you writing.

*The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through

Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble



Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)


Library Direct









Monday, December 5, 2016

Locus Solus: Kenneth Koch and Leonard Cohen

I’ve discovered a great blog called Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets. Andrew Epstein, an Assoicate Professor in the English Department at Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida authors it. A lot of his research and writing centers upon the New York School of Poets. He has authored Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry (Oxford University Press), which focuses on Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Amiri Baraka, and a second book, Attention Equals Life: The Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture, Oxford University Press (in July 2016).

I should never be surprised at how wide the circle of friends and acquaintances were—the NY School reached into the emerging youth culture of the time and informed art on many levels. So, unsurprisingly, there is a connection between the NY School and the late Leonard Cohen.

Cohen was 82, Frank O’Hara would have been 90, Keneth Koch 91, Jane Freilicher 92, and James Schuyler. Of the original group only John Ashbery is still living, age 89. This is indeed sad.

Locus Solus reports: that Kenneth Koch and Leonard Cohen spent some time together on the Greek island of Hydra. From the blog:

Jordan Davis recently unearthed an unpublished interview he did with Koch where the poet talked about his friendship with Cohen and tells a funny story about the time Cohen tried to get him to try his hand as a rock musician too:
I met Leonard Cohen on the island of Hydra in Greece where Janice and Katherine age five and I had gone for a summer vacation. And we became very good friends. We traveled also to Turkey together, to Istanbul. I liked Leonard a lot and so did Janice. We saw each other then a few times after that, it was nice and intense, but never more than a day. After some years, we were already living on West 4th Street, Katherine must have been ten by then. I ran into him on a bus. “Leonard!” I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Don’t you know? I’m a singer.” He had been a poet and a novelist. I got him to tell me all about it. I invited him over to our place and he told me I should become a singer too. I should sing all my poems. It was wonderful because you met lots of women and made a lot of money and you got to travel around and it was very satisfying to sing your poems. I said, “That’s great, Leonard,” and of course I was interested. I said, “Leonard, I can’t sing.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I can’t carry a tune.” He said, “That’s good, that means no one else will be able to sing your stuff.” And I said, “Well okay, but also I don’t play an instrument.” He said, “You can probably learn — let’s try.There wasn’t anything that made noise except a vacuum cleaner. I plugged in the vacuum cleaner and I thought I’d be more in the mood to sing if I stood up on a chair. He said, “Sing one of your poems.” I said, “There’s no music to any of my poems.” He said, “That’s okay.” I sang, with intermittent noise from the vacuum cleaner, “You were wearing your Edgar Allan Poe printed cotton blouse” in a hillbilly voice.

Leonard interrupted me after a few bars I think they’re called — “You’re not serious.” Well there I was standing up on a chair and playing a vacuum cleaner. I stopped playing the vacuum cleaner and tried to be serious. He said, “I don’t believe you. Who are you singing to.” “Leonard, I’m singing to you, there’s no one else here.” “No — who in the audience. Who do you want to go to bed with after the show? Who are you addressing? Who do you want to like you?” “Twenty-two year old women.”

“No. Everybody wants 22-year-old women. Sing to somebody else. You know who I sing to? 
  14-year-olds and 40-year olds.” I’m not sure those are the exact numbers — something like 14 and 40. I said, “Okay, I’ll try to sing to 14 yr olds.” But trying to sing my poems? It didn’t work too well. I said I’d try. At my age how can I get started? I can’t carry a tune I don’t play an instrument and I’ve never sung before. I was already 40 at least by then. “There’s one way you can help me.” And he said, “Anything, what is it.” “Are you going to have tributes on your sleeve, put me on the record jacket. Say, ‘Even the legendary Kenny has come out of retirement to praise Leonard Cohen.’” I figured that people who respond to this kind of thing are not exactly scholarly. He promised he would put this on the record cover. Months went by. I never heard from Leonard. I did receive from him this big rectangle, his record. On the cover was this girl (I don’t know if she was 14 or 40) rising from flames, somewhere in between, and on the back was Leonard, his lyrics, and no tributes. And no Kenny, and that was the end of another career, another attempt to become rich.

Koch’s daughter Katherine — an artist and writer who has begun publishing pieces of a memoir-in-progress about her experiences growing up around the poets and artists of the New York School — recently published a lovely essay about her memories of “Hydra, in 1960.” Read more HERE.

Check it out.